Traveling by the Indian railway in India is an experience you will not easily forget about. It’s the fourth largest train network in the world and it covers over 120000 km of rails with long or short-distance trains.
Getting to know the Indian railway system can be a challenge. So, here are some best practices and pros and cons with information about train travel in India.
Pros of travel with the Indian railway in India
When it comes to train travel in India there are many benefits you have compared to other ways of transportation. Here are a few pros with information about travel with the Indian railway.
1. It’s an affordable way of getting around
When you booking a ticket to travel across India, you’ll now and then have to travel long distances because it’s such a large country. The fastest option often is to travel and book an airplane ticket, but this will take you right to your destination without allowing you to see a bit of the scenery on the way. Plus, it will cost you more when you are booking a ticket. The Indian railway is a cheaper option (even second and first-class are affordable) and you’ll get a real feeling of how Indians travel around in India.
2. There are many options when it comes to price classes and comfort
The Indian train wagons are segmented into groups of wagon classes and each class has its own set of comfort options. Each class ticket will have a different price.
Tip: Always make sure you are booking at least a few days upfront for AC classes.
Here is some information about the Indian train classes:
- First-class ticket with air conditioning: Somewhat the same as second class AC, with 4 bunk beds and a curtain to close to the compartment. In some cases only 2-bed bunk rooms. This is the most expensive option.
- Second class ticket with air conditioning: 4-bed bunks and a curtain to close off the compartment. More affordable and probably the best price/quality option you can get.
- Third class ticket with air conditioning: Same as second class AC but with 6-bed bunks per compartment. Often no curtains.
- Sleeper class ticket: No airconditioning, wagon with open windows and fans. 6 beds per compartment.
- Unreserved class ticket: seat only class. The cheapest option. No option of making a reservation. Ok for short distances.
3. You can cover long distances without being too tired.
When you are booking a sleeper or third, second or first AC class train seat for an overnight train ride, you’ll be able to get some sleep while the train of the Indian railway gets you to your destination.
This will allow you to arrive at your destination well-rested and you don’t necessarily have to book your accommodation for that night as you’ll already have slept on the train. This can be very useful.
Cons of train travel with the Indian Railway
When it comes to train travel in India there are many benefits you have compared to other ways of transportation. Here are a few cons with information about booking a ticket with the Indian railway.
1. Delayed trains…
One of the biggest nuisances when it comes to traveling by train in India is the delayed trains. We are talking about India here, so keep into account that a train can be delayed for hours in a worst-case scenario. Keep in mind that often the Indian railway is sharp on time and if a train is delayed, you will always be able to get to your destination if you have the patience for it.
2. Comfort can be an issue when booking in the sleeper or unreserved class
Just like with taking a bus, don’t expect huge amounts of comfort when you’ll have to travel long distances by an Indian railway train. The beds are ok in first, second or third class AC, but if you want some comfort you better choose for second class AC or third class AC.
Booking the sleeper or unreserved class can be very crowded and full of people. It all depends on your standards and how many people you can handle being around you.
Do’s on the Indian trains
On the train in India, there are certain guidelines of information you need to follow. So things are ethically ok, and some things just aren’t. Here are a few tips about what things you should do when traveling with the Indian railway.
1. Hygiene, tidiness, and cleanliness
- Make sure you use the bed linen you will get on the train to make your bed as comfortable as possible for a long journey.
- Always make sure you bring some soap or antibacterial wash gel to wash your hands after you go to the restroom and before you eat.
- Clean up the train compartment. There are plenty of bins around for rubbish and empty water bottles.
- Make sure you don’t let your stuff swinging around. Keep your most important stuff in your backpack and use the backpack as a pillow when you sleep for safety reasons.
2. Walk around, be friendly to others and enjoy the view outside of the train
For long journeys, you’ll be glad to stretch your legs now and then and as the trains in India are often long as in numbers of wagons, you can go for quite a nice walk.
Often, just a stroll through a couple of wagons will be enough. You’ll meet some people on the way and if you pass an outside door of the train, don’t hesitate to sit down for a while and gaze at the landscape that passes by. It’s a wonderful thing to do to kill the time when you’re traveling by Indian train.
3. Order food and drinks whenever you can
Most trains in India have one or more kitchen wagons and staff walking around in the train selling chai, coffee or snacks. Often also complete breakfast, lunch and dinner packages.
Whenever you can hear someone calling out for chai or anything on the Indian train, get yourself ready and buy yourself a cheap and nice treat. The staff will also help you if you want some more information about the food and drinks on the train. The fact that you can get food and drinks on a train in India, is sure worth the experience. You’ll probably like it.
Don’t do’s on the Indian trains
On the train in India, there are also certain things you should not be doing. Here are a few information tips about what’s considered inappropriate on an Indian Railway train.
1. Stay formal and always be dressed
- Make sure you are always dressed in concealing clothing on an Indian Railway train. Also when you are in your bed asleep.
- Be friendly and always remain formal in conversations with other people.
2. Don’t wake up people in the middle of the night
Don’t turn on the light of the compartment in the middle of the night and let your fellow travel companions sleep. Most people on the train will have a long day before them, so they will need their sleep and best is to respect that.
Famous train routes by the Indian railway
I want to close this article with a couple of examples of popular and special train routes in India. The Indian railway covers quite a lot of surface, but some train rides can be considered more special as other ones. Here are a few examples of Indian railway routes in India that can be considered as recommended.
1. The Konkan Railway (from Mumbai to Goa and Kerala) with the Mandovi Express
Connecting Mumbai and Goa and getting on
The Mandovi Express train takes just over eleven hours to reach the city of Madgaon in Goa, which used to be an old Portuguese settlement (see Old Goa). The landscape you’ll see passing by in the train is a beauty, especially in the monsoon.
2. A Thar desert train
The Indian railway connection from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer links two of Rajasthan’s popular destinations. Both cities feature might forts and vibrant winding desert streets. The train ride will take you about six hours.
3. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
A most famous train ride in India goes from Kalka to Shimla, but there are also two other great Indian hill-station routes that are just as interesting:
- To Ooty (Udhagamandalam) in the South
- To Darjeeling in the North
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built to rescue the Victorians from the summer heat. The train covers 55 miles in 7 hours and gets you through village streets and lush panoramic views.
How to book your Indian railway train ticket
For booking a seat in higher class Indian railway trains, it’s smart to buy your tickets in advance, especially for long-distance night trains in high season for popular destinations.
Tickets go on sale 120 days in advance and can sell out quickly. You can either go to a train station in India and book your tickets there a couple of days in advance or you can go to www.seat61.com or www.indiarail.co.uk. Both sites have information about Indian rail travel.